The FDOT (The Department of Streets and Highways) is seeking approval of transportation planners in Broward and Palm Beach Counties to approve five-year plans for road and “transit” projects. The Sun-Sentinel reports:
“A total of $2.37 billion will be spent in Broward County and $916 million in Palm Beach Countyfrom 2012 through 2016.”
Wow, pretty cool, eh? With over $3 Billion in spending we’ll surely be zipping along the FEC corridor from Miami to Jupiter in no time. Perhaps we’ll be able to ride the Ft. Lauderdale Wave Streetcar from my downtown office to the Broward General Medical Center. Heck, maybe we’ll be commuting on some new flashy BRT routes throughout both counties. Nope. This is FDOT we’re talking about - there is only one right way to blow $3.3 Billion.
“Major highway projects in Broward and Palm Beach counties are moving from the top of wish lists to reality.”
Oh Joy! Christmas has come early!
“State officials are including money in the latest plan to build an interchange for FAU’s new stadium in Boca Raton, widen State Road 7 in southern Broward County and expand the last two-lane section of Andrews Avenue in Pompano Beach.
It’s a dramatic turnaround from two years ago when the state had to delay numerous projects because of a decline in gas tax revenues and other resources. The state couldn’t keep up with the rising cost of land and materials to build roads.”
That’s right, we need more interchanges and lanes. Silly me. How could I forget how effective incessantly widening highways to meet ever growing congestion needs has been? For all their faults, the FDOT will be investing some money in Transit. Just what exactly? I’m so glad you asked:
“The county will study improving mass transit on its busiest routes — Broward Boulevard, Oakland Park Boulevard, State Road 7 and U.S. 1. The improvements could range from pull-outs so buses don’t hold up traffic to special equipment that allows buses to pre-empt traffic signals so they stay green longer so they can get through intersections.
Another study will look at improving State Road 7 from northern Broward into southern Palm Beach County, by improving mass transit and adding lanes.”
Wouldn’t want those buses to get in the way of all those cars now would we? Now, let’s get this straight. FDOT suddenly has $3.3B more to spend between 2012 and 2016 in Broward and Palm Beach. So the logical solution is to pump the money into projects already underway? And, for safe measure, to cover their asses and pretend to be serving the best interest of all transit modes, they decided to invest a pittance into transit studies?
“The new projects are in addition to work that already is started or will begin next year, such as the extension of the I-95 express lanes to Fort Lauderdale that will begin next year, the I-595 construction and I-95 widening in northern Palm Beach Countyunderway and construction of a new Eller Drive overpass connecting I-595 to Port Everglades that will start in 2011.”
I know what you’re all thinking. C’mon, 95 Express - dude its a transit project, kinda - we’re getting buses to use those routes and whisk passengers across highways to their destinations quickly and effectively. After all, one of the main selling points of the 95 Express HOT Lanes was the ability for transit buses to access the tolled lanes free of charge, providing transit riders with a cheap alternative to driving alone and simultaneously improving the commute time of “regional” service buses. In theory this plan works. In theory. But we lack the sufficient density to make BRT along our highways effective; and, congestion hasn’t reached the point to justify the time it would take users to park-and-ride. Plus, BCT and MDT lack the funds to keep these buses operating:
“The Broward County Commission will hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, at the Broward County Governmental Center, Room 422, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, for public input on proposed changes to the 95 Express Bus Service. The proposed changes would become effective on Monday, January 10, 2011.”
The proposed service changes are:
- Discontinued service to the Golden Glades Park & Ride stop
- Discontinued reverse commute trips from Miami during the morning peak hours
- Discontinued reverse commute trips from Pembroke Pines during the afternoon peak hours
Given the upcoming meetings regarding the latest phase of the SFEC Corridor Study I thought it would be a good time to look back to my review of the project alternatives after last year’s initial presentation. I am curious how things have changed since then. From what I hear, the integrated solution that provides local and commuter service is being tossed for an exclusively commuter service….lets hope that is not the case.
Yesterday FDOT hosted a public meeting displaying their Phase 2 analysis for the FEC Corridor. Promising stuff, although I left with a few questions and concerns. The project team was interested and excited about the prospect of bringing some form of transit down this corridor, describing a higher than average projected ridership and amazing public support, and truly explaining the pros/cons of each alternative ( a welcomed change from other FDOT meetings I have attended where there was very little choice being given to attendees as project reps simply ram the preferred alternative down your throat). Unfortunately, as one project representative said (who wished to remain anonymous) the major problem with getting funding for construction will be the federal government’s hesitance at giving over $1 billion for construction, when local officials will not commit to continue funding the tri-rail service we already have. Can’t say I blame them.
For my money, I was impressed the alternative that offered both local and express service. ‘Urban Mobility’ (Alternative B) would provide both local and express service using a combination of light rail and commuter rail, and would cost about $3.4-4.2 billion (for the full length of the 80 Miles).
Anther alternative I liked was the ‘Integrated Network’ solution (Alternative D) which would provide crucial new east/west connections between the FEC corridor and the airport Tri-Rail station. This alternative, while not as convenient for express service, was also less expensive at $2.9-3.6 billion. The cost difference attributed to building out the second track for express service.
My big concern (echoed by many people I spoke with around the room and after the meeting) is that the service stops at government center, missing the vital connection to the Port. Word on the street is that they have no intention of going to the Port because of engineering issues (which is total bs). Here we have within our reach the holy grail of Miami transit - a direct connection between the sea port and the airport - and FDOT wants to stop at the door . The FEC corridor already runs to the port - there is NO reason not to take it all the way in - not right-of-way issues, not engineering. No reason. Period. It will be a boon to the cruising industry who will be able to tell their customers that they no longer need to factor in a $50 round-trip taxi cab ride to and from the port (more money to spend on board - can anyone say more on-board revenue???)
So FDOT, listen closely. Here are my recommendations:
- Combine alternatives B and D. We need express service and local service along the same alignment (without having to go west).
- Connect to the airport tri-rail station. We want more connections - not less!
- Connect to the sea port! This project cannot should not move forward without making that vital connection. As important as the tunnel is to the seaport, imagine what a passenger connection from the airport will do for our local cruising industry.
- Move swiftly!! These are important moves you are making. Don’t delay!
The expected time line is: PDE preferred alternative chosen in the Spring of 2010, final study in Fall/Winter 2010, apply for federal funding 2011, begin design work/ROW acquisition late 2011/early 2012. Seems ridiculously long, doesn’t it? Sigh…
The below commentary was sent to us by a Transit Miami reader in response to today’s article in the Miami Herald.
As a transit advocate adding regional rail along the FEC corridor just makes common sense. We need all Transit Miami readers to show their support by attending one of the FDOT meetings this week in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade. Let’s go with one voice that tri-rail should be expanded and run along the eastern FEC line in addition to the current western CSX line. Tri-rail already has the experience, staff, trains, repair personnel, etc and adding additional options for travelers will help everyone. Having one type of train system allows one operator, less total investment, flexibility, and regional rail ties into the state system for high speed rail. Don’t let Orlando and Tampa steal all of the Florida rail money. Approving regional rail will help SE Florida’s bid to receive federal money for high speed rail.”
The Florida Department of Transportation will hold public hearings on the South Florida East Coast Corridor Study at five locations:
• West Palm Beach Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., Tuesday, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m.
• North Miami Beach, McDonald Center, 17051 NE 19th Ave., Wednesday, 6 to 8 p.m.
• Boca Raton Community Center, Royal Palm Room, 150 Crawford Blvd., Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m.
• Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Sept. 21, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m.
• Fort Lauderdale, Holiday Park Social Center, 1150 G. Harold Martin Dr., Sept. 22 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m.
New information on the SFECC Study will be provided at a series of public workshops in October. Participation is vital so the public can talk with members of the study team about station locations, closing or improving railroad crossings and effects on the environment and community. There will also be an audio demonstration of the sounds of the five transit types being considered. The study seeks to improve mobility with new local and regional passenger transit service for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties on the 85-mile FEC Railway Corridor. The study is being conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation in partnership with planning and transit agencies of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.
This study is being conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation in partnership with planning and transit agencies of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.
Much has been said lately about the changes proposed by Commissioner Sarnoff regarding height restrictions in the MIMO historic district. I have had several exchanges with area residents who oppose further development along this (and other corridors). Recently Commissioner Sarnoff issued a letter to Commission Chair Sanchez over the false fear of Burt Harris property rights litigation, and makes some good points. I can’t argue that taking property rights will open the city to litigation (it might, but as the Commissioner points out, the city has a strong case). The question is not whether the city is within its rights to do so, but whether it is good policy. It isn’t. With all due respect to local residents, I think that capping development in this area at 35′ is bad planning. The Commissioner cites traffic and lack of mass transit as part of his reasoning:
This is an important City of Miami historic district that exists on an FDOT [rated] ‘F’ roadway. The added density or often intensity of T5 or T6 planned for sections of this historic road will only casue a collapse in a system that has already seen its mass transit funding diverted by the County.
Mr. Commissioner, we should be so lucky to have ‘F’ rated roadways. You should know that as you increase the Level of Service for a road, you decrease the Level of Service for pedestrians and cyclists. Increased Levels of Service lead to greater flow, greater speed, and less safety. I hope you don’t advocate increasing Levels of Service along our roadways as a way of addressing the lack of mass transit. Alleviating traffic by preventing development is a red herring - it will not have any effect on the LOS of the roadway. Rather than being concerned with the false perception that limiting development will reducing traffic, you and area residents should be more concerned about designing the street with pedestrians in mind, slowing traffic down (by keeping a low LOS), and facilitating further mass transit opportunities.
And speaking of the lack of mass transit on Biscayne, you and others should read about the project to bring rail down the FEC corridor that runs right next to Biscayne. Part of the planning work they are doing for this project is to make sure that the local CDMP and zoning code increases density and pedestrianism around stations. Contrary to your claims that this is not an appropriate area for density, its proximity to a major rail corridor make it the most logical place for more density, and will help offer your constituents more transit alternatives. The timeline for the project is about 6 years (which started in January), so this is not some far off project but one that will be implemented in the short term. Funding will come from the Federal and State government.
Also, check out the editorial from the Herald today echoing the economic benefits of the plan, which I described yesterday.
- Florida is applying for money allocated for high-speed rail.
- Palm Beach Congressman Ron Klein (D-Fla) has been meeting with FEC representatives in a push for commuter rail along the FEC corridor.
- Atlantic Railyards Stadium shenanigans: The MTA is allowing New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner to pay off $100 million over 22 years for the right to build a stadium on MTA owned land. A losing proposition for the cash-strapped MTA.
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